Rachel Rushing

Artists were not considered as individuals who had to invent or create something. They were participating in the whole, in the universe. So, for me, the sky is much more important than trying to make a painting that is a symbol for the sky. For me, it’s the pollen itself—that is the miracle in which I participate in my daily life when I collect the pollen. It’s not mine. – Wolfgang Laib

Many of the common and most straightforward questions that come out of an encounter with a work of art are the result of an educated and dissatisfied audience. Why is that art? What makes that worth so much (this can be inferred as a value statement about the work being good or bad)? Who decided this is art? All of these questions stem from a sense of dissatisfaction, and yet this desire to be fulfilled is where the spark of curiosity resides. I would like to assert that this curiosity is a gift, and though these questions are often asked with an air of incredulity, their being asked at all is a sign of possibility.

And yet, who does decide these things? And who decided who decides? Morris Weitz’s open concept of art as an idea that “resists definitions based on any set of necessary and sufficient conditions present or forthcoming” is possibly the simplest philosophy that I most readily identify with. No one exclusively decides what makes X, Y, or Z art, or even a work of art. As Marcia Eaton has said, criticism “invites people to pay attention to special things,” and though the designation of ‘special’ is just as elusive as ‘art’ (and likely, just as subjective), it is the invitation to attention that I find interesting. And what is an artist, if not someone who can point to this rock or that color and exclaim, “Look! Look! Do you see?” This sort of open-ended distinction extends an invitation to chaos and further complicates the discussion of good art vs. bad art, yet that discussion is the most exciting thing about looking in the direction I’ve been pointed towards.

Delineating ‘good’ and ‘bad’ requires boundaries that I have no intention of laying. I cannot say if this art is good and that art is bad, I can only choose the direction of my gaze. I can prefer the work of an artist that is intellectual and stimulating as they reference history, sociology, beauty and form. But this preference does not carry a statement of value. Art that is made void of these characteristics is equally valuable, in my mind, and I would readily discuss it as well. This is the beauty of an art world, in the communal sense. Everyone is equally good and bad, interesting and uninteresting, glorious and mundane.